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Old January 1st, 2013, 02:47 PM   #1
Suburbanist
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How to better insulate noise on skyscrapers

One of the disadvantages of multistory buildings is noise interference caused by neighbors.

I'm impressed with newer technologies that can virtually shut down any street noise, like triple-glazed windows and other materials used on external walls, so that your apartment is very quiet as long as windows are shut. Apparently newer generation of elevator mechanisms can also virtually shut down the bothersome low-frequency noise produced by their operation.

However, a question remains: why is it so difficult to isolate noise between floors or wall-sharing units? It can become an extremely annoying interference on the quietness of home life, depending on the habits of your neighbors. After all, in most Western countries, I think it is fairly easy to complain about a neighbor playing loud music our loud TV, but there isn't much to be done with people walking around their apartments.

I understand the disposition of floors (horizontal, of course) makes it harder to just stuff fiberglass or other noise-reducing materials, or to fit a semi-vacuum enclosure, for physical reasons, but there should be a solution at this point.

After privacy issues and lack of private open space (garden/lawn), noise from neighbors is the 3rd largest downside of living in high buildings in my opinion.
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Old January 2nd, 2013, 03:08 PM   #2
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Residential skyscrapers (we need a more compact word for those by the way) are usually structured with concrete for noise insulation reasons. It's a bit of a trade off between how much concrete you'd like to use and the noise reduction qualities. Especially some of them 60's and 70's buildings were over designed, and have pretty good insulation as a result.
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Old January 3rd, 2013, 05:15 AM   #3
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The skyscrapers (40+ stories) I have lived in had much better isolating than my 4 story flat back in the Netherlands. Three factors played a role. 1) The ceilings are much higher in Hong Kong skyscrapers, 2) They used a lot of stronger concrete than in the Netherlands 3) Most modern apartments in HK have no walls bordering your neighboor. They specifically design them as such. Most buildings are relatively narrow there with a maximum of 4 to 6 flats per floor.
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Old January 3rd, 2013, 11:10 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ribarca View Post
Most modern apartments in HK have no walls bordering your neighboor. They specifically design them as such. Most buildings are relatively narrow there with a maximum of 4 to 6 flats per floor.
Yeah, typically the floor plan of a Hong Kong skyscraper resembles a snowflake. I always figured that was done for ventilation purposes (while the climate allows them to do so) but reducing noise is another bonus.
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Old January 3rd, 2013, 01:51 PM   #5
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Doesn't that cost a lot of potential floor space?
Load baring walls (very thick and strong concrete) should keep out most noise.

@ Ribarca, I don't know where you lived in Holland, but the older apartments here have indeed very poor noise insulation.
Things improved over time. Good legislation may help as well.
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Old January 3rd, 2013, 02:46 PM   #6
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You are probably right Jan. They house the air-conditionings as well in those spaces and the bathrooms open up to them for ventilation.

I have an apartment in Amsterdam just outside the canals Eric. But in general I found flats in Holland more noisy than the taller ones in HK I have lived in. The neighbor upstairs had the tendency to wear her heels in the house. It drove me crazy.
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Old January 3rd, 2013, 03:31 PM   #7
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^ That might not only have to do with the structure. Keep in mind that Dutch are "polder"-people, meaning that they have a tendency to act like they are in the open, while being in a dense space. As much as the Dutch are generally a happy and outgoing bunch, that can sometimes be explained as inconsiderate and noisy.
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Old January 3rd, 2013, 10:51 PM   #8
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Sheer thick concrete helps reduce noise levels, but it still conveys low-frequency noise that can be very annoying. You need some vacuum to reduce them.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 12:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ribarca View Post
...in general I found flats in Holland more noisy than the taller ones in HK I have lived in. The neighbor upstairs had the tendency to wear her heels in the house. It drove me crazy.
Those were her wooden shoes


Seriously though, here I can hear a coin tossed on the floor, or even the neighbour above vacuming, but never foot steps, although most probably none wear heels
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Old January 5th, 2013, 12:25 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suburbanist View Post
Sheer thick concrete helps reduce noise levels, but it still conveys low-frequency noise that can be very annoying. You need some vacuum to reduce them.
That can only achieved with pre-fab flooring panels (horizontal insulation) that I beelieve are not used because the flooring consist of a very important part of the structure rigidy and integrity in a highrise/skyscraper. As for vertical walls, perhaps they are mostly partition walls, to reduce the weight, so thickness isn't recomended/preferred
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Old January 5th, 2013, 02:43 PM   #11
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Noise isolation is not a technological issue, it's a cost-benefit issue. Since good noise isolation between apartments is something pretty difficult to sell, there's not much motivation for developers to invest in it.

The commieblock where I live has extremely poor noise isolation - If I knew Russian, I would clearly understand what the downstairs neighbour is saying when she's yelling at her children And I can never have friends over - even with no music and less than 5 people, the downstairs neighbour feels the need to call the cops because there's a "massive party" going on.
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